Help for self-help – International Training Course on seismology and seismic hazard assessment in Myanmar

Participants, lecturers of the GFZ and the University of Bergen, and deputies of the Department for Meteorology and Hydrology (photo: i.A. Phyo Maung Maung (DMH) for the GFZ).

Again and again Southeast Asia is affected by natural hazards. The most remembered painful event so far was with no doubt the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean of 2004, triggered by an earthquake, which caused the death of more than 230,000 people. An event like a tsunami becomes a natural hazard if a region is not well prepared. After the tsunami disaster of 2004 the GFZ was mandated with the development of a tsunami early warning system that started operations in 2008. The GFZ further supports the region with the International Training Course "Seismology and seismic hazard assessment" that is organized in Myanmar this year. Since 1992 the GFZ section Physics of Earthquakes and Volcanoes conducts this course as part of the educational and training program of the UNESCO, since 2005 led by Dr. Claus Milkereit.

Last week the course started in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. Until October 21, 27 participants from nine countries learn how to analyze earthquakes, and how to determine location effects. They also get to know about methods on seismic hazard assessment. In many countries of the region seismology and seismic hazard assessment is not taught at universities. The participants are sent by their universities or governments of their countries that deal with the topic of earthquake security or monitoring. The course addresses geoscientists and engineers, technicians and operators of seismological stations and networks in countries affected by geohazards. The focus is on the transfer of knowledge and thereby the empowering of the countries to help themselves.

Dr. Claus Milkereit: „If experts in the region are trained to recognize a potential disaster at an early state, and if the regions are well prepared, a natural event must not necessarily become a natural disaster”. Therefore, the course mainly aims at qualifying the participants to independently install and operate monitoring and early warning systems within their countries. In the course of the international cooperation the global networking of seismologic monitoring systems is promoted. Here, the software SeisComp3, developed at the GFZ, plays a crucial part in several regional monitoring centres. The GFZ offers cooperation and data exchange with the global seismic GEOFON network as well as earthquake evaluation software.

Practical training by experts

Twelve GFZ scientists take part in the course as lecturers, as well as three contributors from the Department for Meteorology and Hydrology, DMH, of the Myanmar government, a geologist from the Mandalay University in Myanmar, and a scientist from the University of Bergen, Norway. The scientists and experts address the participants within their respective area of expertise. The course is structured in six units. Within four weeks the participants learn about the basics of seismology, like the analysis of seismograms; they get to know about the origin of earthquake induced ground motion, about the risk assessment of earthquakes, and about geodynamic modelling. Theory and praxis always go hand-in-hand so that the participants can immediately apply their new knowledge. The last part of the course is the complete simulation of an earthquake early warning system.

Besides the tsunami of 2004, examples examined in the course are the devastating Nepal quake from 2015, an earthquake in Myanmar, and their particular fracture mechanisms. Within their keynotes, Dr. Jörn Lauterjung, Head of the GFZ department Geoservices, and Daw Ye Ye Myein, DMH, explain the specific tectonics of Southeast Asia and the resulting earthquake and tsunami hazard. Lauterjung was project manager of the tsunami early warning system for the Indian Ocean, GITEWS. Professor Torsten Dahm, Head of GFZ section Physics of Earthquakes and Volcanoes, held his keynote on the role of induced and triggered earthquakes for the evaluation of the seismic hazard of a region. Induced seismicity is a specific form of seismicity that is connected to human activity. ‘Triggered’ is a natural event where the time of its occurrence is determined by human impact. An enhanced seismic activity can, for example, be detected after the construction of large dams.

The cross-border regional and global data assessment is an important part of the course. In recent years the availability of high quality data and freely available assessment software increased. For a detailed analysis of fracture mechanisms, the GFZ for example provides a software package named „Pyrocko“, that is also part of the training. If there is an earthquake catalogue existent for a region, an analysis of the seismic activity allows for statistic determination of future ground motions.

The GFZ conducts the course together with the DMH, financially supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The DMH is responsible for the weather and flood forecast, as well as the seismic monitoring and tsunami warning in Myanmar.

04.10.2016, Ariane Kujau

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